The increasing pressure of clandestine migration to Europe seems to be partly driven by utopian fantasy. This is evidenced by a rush among Arabs to emigrate to Liberland, a utopian new country that took them by storm.
Czech politician Vit Jedlicka claimed a 7km2 stretch of no-man’s land on the west bank of the Danube river between Serbia and Croatia as the Free Republic of Liberland.
Interest in the new micro-land has been huge with Liberland’s website receiving over one million visits in the space of three days, Jedlicka told AFP.
Arabs, particularly Egyptians, have shown a huge interest in Liberland.
The Arabic hashtag Liberland has drawn a deluge of tweets.
They show that this utopian fantasy—where tax will be optional and politicians will have limited power--is being treated as real at least by some Arabs who are so desperate to leave their countries that they are unable to discern fantasy from reality.
"When it comes to migration, Moroccans show a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Chaddi wrote.
“God willing I am going to my new homeland, Liberland; inshallah it will be a good omen for us. #let’s go to Liberland,” Loma tweeted.
Raghd Abdelaziz tweeted: “This is a call for Saudi women to migrate to Liberland. By the way, men are not allowed to come along; their kingdom [Saudi Arabia] needs them.”
Liberland’s Arabic Twitter account, Liberlandarabia, reassured disappointed Arabs whose hopes for migration to it were dampened by claims widely shared on social media that Chinese, Arabs and Russians will not be welcomed in the new country.
“We received over 160,000 registration applications mostly from India, Egypt, Morocco and Brazil. Liberland is open to everyone,” Liberlandarabia said.
“We officially deny media reports saying we reject citizenship applications from Russians, Chinese and Arabs. Liberland is open to everyone.”
Worried that some may get carried away by this fantasy, an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman, Badr Abdel Atti, told a local television channel there is no country called Liberland, warning them against being scammed and advising them not to provide “sensitive information” that could lead to scams.
To some social media users, the warning is typical of an authoritarian state telling its people what to do.
But the ministry may be trying to nip in the bud clandestine migration dreams nurtured by Liberland. According to the UN refugee agency, Egyptians are among other Africans often found trying to enter Europe secretly by boat, having crossed the Mediterranean. Liberland may encourage more such plans, though it is not yet on any map.
Various Arab media outlets scrambled to report on the Liberland rush with some gauging the extent to which young Arabs want to leave their countries.
“Liberland is the dream republic of Arabs fleeing the deluge of bloodshed,” wrote Lebanese journalist Iyad Abu-Shakra in the Arab daily Al-Hayat.
The Qatar-based channel Al-Jazeera Live interviewed Arab youths on why many of them are attracted to Liberland.
An Egyptian called George was the first to apply for citizenship, reported the website Al-Bawaba.
Another Egyptian Christian, Mena George, wrote a comment on the website Misr Al-Arabiya. Ostensibly, it is framed as advice to the citizens of Liberland to respect the rule of law and democracy and to uphold the principles of tolerance, equality, justice and freedom. But in reality, it is a criticism of the decades-long chronic lack of such qualities in his home country, Egypt.
It is no surprise that Liberland is fuelling the imagination of Egyptian Christians, a minority yearning for equal rights and religious tolerance. Those among them who are able to emigrate have been leaving the country in thousands since the 2011 uprising. It is estimated that more than 100,000 have left already.
“Sweetheart, all our problems are solved, I got a job in Liberland; I’ll work as a citizen.”